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APA Format for Referencing Poems


Creating references for poems under the American Psychological Association format might seem complicated at first glance. References for poems in edited books may contain as many as nine pieces of identifying information, whereas references for poems on web pages may contain as few as four pieces of information. However, all APA poetry citations follow the same basic format. References begin with the poet’s name, the source’s year of publication and the title of poem. From there, the names of editors, publications, publishing information or notes about a poem's original publication dates follow in a familiar pattern.

All Poetry References

All APA poem references begin with the poet’s last name, a comma, a space, his first initial and a period. Make an open parenthesis. Enter the publication year for the copy of the poem you accessed. For example, if you are referencing a poem that was first published in 1855, but you read the poem in a book published in 2013, enter 2013 after the open parenthesis. Add a close parenthesis and a period. Type the title of the poem in sentence case -- only capitalize the first letters of the first word, first word after a colon (if any) and proper nouns. Then, place a period after the title.

For example: Whitman, W. (2013). I sing the body electric.

Book of Poetry by One Author

Type “In” then the italicized title of the book. Leave a space and make an open parenthesis. Enter the abbreviation “pp.” followed by the page numbers for the poem. Add a close parenthesis and a period. Note the city of publication. Insert a comma and leave a space. Enter the two-letter abbreviation for the state of publication succeeded by a colon. Leave another space, and type the name of the publisher and a period.

For example: Whitman, W. (1855). I sing the body electric. In Leaves of Grass (italicized) (pp. 73-74). Brooklyn, NY: Rome Printers.

Edited Book Containing Poems by Multiple Authors

Type “In” followed by the editor’s first initial, a period, a space and the editor’s last name. Leave another space and make an open parenthesis. Type the abbreviation “Ed.” Add a close parenthesis and a comma. Leave a space. Enter the title of the book in italicized sentence case.Leave a space and make an open parenthesis. Enter the abbreviation “pp.” followed by the page numbers for the poem. Add a close parenthesis and a period. Note the city of publication. Insert a comma and leave a space. Enter the two-letter abbreviation for the state of publication succeeded by a colon. Leave another space, and type the name of the publisher and a period.

For example: Whitman, W. (1855). I sing the body electric. In C. Davis (Ed.), The best American poetry of 1855 (italicized) (pp. 39-40). Durham, NC: The Show.

Periodical

Type the name of the periodical in italicized title case: capitalize the first letters of the first word, last word and every other title word that is not an article. Add a comma and leave a space. Enter the periodical’s volume number, an open parenthesis, the issue number, a close parenthesis and a comma. Italicize the volume number but not the issue number. Leave a space. Add the page numbers and a period.

For example: Whitman, W. (1855). I sing the body electric. American Poems Quarterly (italicized), 9(italicized)(1), 16-17.

Nonperiodical Websites

APA does not require writers to include nonperiodical website names in references for web-based sources. Following the title of the poem, simply type the phrase “Retrieved from” then paste the URL.

For example: Whitman, W. (2013). I sing the body electric. Retrieved from http://americanpoets.org/whitman/0012/

Adding a Notation for the Original Year of Publication

If the poem was originally published before your source was published, note the original publication year parenthetically at the end of the reference. Make an open parenthesis. Type the phrase “Original work published” followed by the year of initial publication. End the notation with a close parenthesis.

For example: Whitman, W. (2013). I sing the body electric. In Leaves of Grass (italicized) (pp. 73-74). New York, NY: An American Press. (Original work published 1855)

About the Author

Grace Riley has been a writer and photographer since 2005, with work appearing in magazines and newspapers such as the "Arkansas Democrat-Gazette." She has also worked as a school teacher and in public relations and polling analysis for political campaigns. Riley holds Bachelor of Arts degrees in American studies, political science and history, all from the University of Arkansas.

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